PHOTOS: Vanessa Blankenagel, Markus Jahn & Amelie Mesecke
OFF THE RECORD…
The night at Lake Tekapo hadn’t been an easy one. It was a long uphill hop from cabin to the media tent and – more importantly – the catering marquee. It had been a late finish on the trails, too, so everything was happening later, in a compressed fashion, not good when you’re wearying. I would have felt sorry for myself only I was there when Amy (see the day six report) returned from the hospital, her ankle in a bad way, shedding brave tears with the jolting pain of every touch of our doctor.
I was fairly refreshed the next morning though, and found joy in my heart watching the incredible sunrise as you can see in the beautiful image by Vanessa. Only that time cost us breakfast – straight on to the road for us. More joy at the first test, though, where incredibly Amy turned up for duty, probably dosed to the eyeballs with painkillers, but smiling and flying a drone for photography. A trooper.
It was another day of stunning scenery and this day I really wanted to be on a bike to see it all, for while the gravel roads had held little attraction these trails through the passes looked sheer delight. At Danseys Pass we took time out to get pictures of the GS Trophy X3s and X5s for the car team back in Munich. They were a bit of an upgrade on the Land Cruiser we were traveling in and with M-spec motors you could tell they’d be silly fast on the tar seal.
My favourite sight of the day was seeing, for the second time, clouds falling down the side of the mountains. I’ve seen this before in New Zealand, they’re a phenomenon called orographic clouds and obviously have something to do with differing temperature air masses. Something I wish I understood better but, still, to see they’re pretty special.
JB’s BMW REPORT… Mt. Aspiring, New Zealand.
Day seven of the 2020 BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy saw the GS riders head further south, exchanging the high country of the Mackenzie Basin for the first reaches of the Upper Otago, not an easy transition as mountains are constant barriers to movement here in the South Island. The smallest lines of weakness – passes and gorges – are typically the only way to reach new territory and so it was the GS Trophy route negotiated four mountain passes and plenty of water crossings before the riders were allowed to reach the camp at Lake Wanaka, which in the early evening sat in the shadow of the imposing Mount Aspiring (a world heritage site).
Such is the scenic drama of these high country regions they have been made world famous by the filming here of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies; but the land here has a long and real history of its own and men have mined these areas for years, whether it was the Maori searching for green stone (jade) or the European pioneers drawn by the gold rush of the late 19th century.
The GS riders had enjoyed gold of different nature in the truly magnificent sunrise over Lake Tekapo before setting off for their first test of the day, the Akrapovic Challenge, found just 30km along the track to the Hakataramea Pass. This test required all three team riders to ride a parcours that was part gravel floor part inclined bank with tricky cambered turns that overturned a few. Against the clock, the riders balanced attack with technique, and for the leading teams of South Africa and France it was evident both were taking a measured tactic of being fast but not erratic – a mistake at this point in the competition could prove difficult to reverse.
After the test the riders continued up the pass on a flowing trail that allowed long glances westward toward the Southern Alps where the snowy peak of Mt. Cook (Aoraki by its Maori name) – at 3724m New Zealand’s highest mountain – was lit by the orange and gold rays from the morning sun.
Once over this pass the route veered westward into Danseys Pass, an altogether more technical trail where the steep valley sides closed in tight – as did flocks of the Merino sheep, which repeated blocked the trail! At the head of the pass the riders could at last take their break for lunch at the Danseys Pass Hotel – as remote an establishment as you’ll ever find. Upon leaving the pass again the mountains were thrilling the riders with their beauty as clouds tumbled like waterfalls from the peaks.
When away from the mountains the route passed along the high country where smaller hills slipped between the pastures and occasional crop fields. Small towns drifted by, like Naseby and Wedderburn with their history embedded in gold mining – you can still see the odd abandoned miner’s hut rusting away – but today these communities rely mostly on agriculture to sustain them.
In the afternoon the route took in one last high pass, up through Thomson Gorge, and at the highest point the riders found their second test of the day, ‘Gate clutch start’. Here the teams, starting from the gate at the head of the pass, had to bump start a BMW F 850 GS in the shortest possible distance. That’s start and stop, with the engine still running after the crash braking. Here again some played safe allowing themselves a good few metres to gain momentum before bump starting the GS and hitting the brakes. Braver teams, like Russia, successfully gambled on just two turns of a wheel before dropping the clutch catching the engine and braking – all done in less than five metres.
Test complete it was a last run downhill to Lake Wanaka, although this trail was peppered with water crossings and gates, so something of a stop-start affair. Wanaka is set in a huge glacier-formed valley, with fields dotted with giant rocks. The Pisa Hills stood to stop the riders from heading too far south while ahead the Southern Alps were again an imposing dark wall of rock that stood as barrier to the west coast.
The ride from Rotorua, across two islands, has been magnificent, at times challenging but always inspiring. Now the GS Trophy riders have just one more day to savour this most dramatic and beautiful of countries. And for the few that are in contention for the GS Trophy itself there’s still the nerve-wracking final grand-parcours which will determine the new champions. One more day, but memories that will last a lifetime.
Aurelien Szulek, Team France:
“Being in second place in the competition we’ve had to concentrate in the tests today. We want to do well but we have to be careful so we don’t make a big mistake, and we are still uncertain as to how tomorrow will shape up and how many points there will be to win or lose. But we like to have fun when not in the tests and the days here have been so much fun, we work hard in the tests but we play hard on the trails. We’ve had a great week.”
Pedro Machioretto, Team Brazil:
“Today was a really good day, we did a good job on test one. I dropped my bike but I picked it up quickly so I think we did well. But always it depends on how the other teams did. In the second stage we completed the start and stop in eight metres, which was good – but did the other teams do better? We have to wait to find out. Our goal now is to stay in the top five, we’ve climbed from 17th to 4th in the points and are really happy to have done that, so we hope to keep that position to the finish. I have to say, also, that New Zealand is a beautiful, wonderful country. It’s so diverse, so we have new experiences every day, and the GS Trophy has taken us to places no tourist would go, it’s like a private tour by a local – it’s been amazing.”
Kiang Wei Chan, Team Malaysia:
“We have enjoyed New Zealand so much, with every turn there’s been a new view, sometimes a mountain, sometimes a beach – and the off-road riding has been great. And we like that it’s so much cooler than it is at home! We had fun today with the UK team, we sang traditional Malaysian songs – through the SENA headsets – then they joined us as we sang Bohemian Rhapsody together as we rode! It’s fun riding and singing! For friendships and for everything BMW brings to this event it’s a great experience.”
BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy 2020
1 South Africa 340
2 Italy 335
3 France 331
4 South Korea 291
5 Brazil 286
6 Netherlands 280
7 Russia 279
8 Latin America 265
9 Australia 1244
10 Mexico 240
10 Middle East 240
12 Argentina 230
13 USA 226
14 Nordic 218
15 Japan 208
16 UK 199
17 Thailand 185
18 India 182
19 Malaysia 170
20 Int. Female Team I 137
21 North Africa 130
22 Int. Female Team II 109